When parenting takes the Oh! out of romance

I almost said No. Write an article on ‘how to keep romance alive with kids around’? Me? Oy. I asked my husband (vaguely hoping he’d agree to write the article), and he had no idea. But, with the topic incubating in my head in the intervening week, I had a revelation, which I’ll share with you.

First, some background. My husband and I met on a blind date. It lasted five hours and he told me, during that date, that he was going to marry me. We knew within three months that he was right, and we were engaged after eight months. Our relationship continued much as it began: ro-man-TIC…

Weekly date nights. Monthly gifts. Stolen lunchtimes. Big and small surprises.

Three years later we were parents. And today, ten years in, romance in the heart-clutching sense seems more relevant to cheesy TV, than it does to two ou toppies living in the eye of the parenting / working / surviving storm.

But that’s because our romance is no longer ‘traditional’. You may recognise these behaviours (which for me count as romance) in your relationship:

  1. Shared smiles over a child’s head when they do or say something adorable
  2. Stolen time whenever you can, for a weekly, monthly or even yearly ‘date night’
  3. Acts of service. This, one of the 5 Love Languages® (find yours here), refers to anything you do to consciously ease the burden of responsibilities on your partner. When my husband fixes things in the house, especially without me nagging him, that’s his way of showing real love.
  4. Compliments
  5. Heartfelt words or home-made gifts for a birthday, anniversary, or ‘just because’
  6. Playing games together – whether your thing is card games and board games, or dress-up-and-don’t-tell games. You know the kind I mean.
  7. Shared showers
  8. Hugs, snuggles and held hands
  9. Undivided attention and quality conversation over a meal, hobby or exercise
  10. Kept promises
  11. Shared laughter, which goes a long way towards fostering intimacy
  12. Making sacrifices, large or small, for each other’s happiness or wellbeing
  13. Bringing an unsolicited cup of coffee into the bedroom in the morning

As I look at this list, I realise that parents need each other’s time, in order to experience romance. Whether it’s a night out or five minutes of meaningful eye contact (without children, cellphones or computers in the way), real and sustained connection comes from all of those moments, added up.

My husband told me last night that, when you’re dating, romance tends to be about ‘impressing the other person’ – whether that’s with thoughtful gifts, fancy meals, good looks, your social circle, or even sheer sparkling wit.

On that basis, then, when you’re co-parenting, romance is about simply seeing, hearing and touching the other person, and about prioritising the finding or making of all of the little and big moments needed to do that.

*This post originally appeared on zaparents.com.